Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GreenPeak: Battery-free sensor networks ramping up in the U.S.

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/09/30/greenpeak-battery-free-sensor-networks-ramping-up-in-the-us/

Batteries are the barrier to more buildings having wireless sensor networks that can help cut energy consumption, GreenPeak CEO and founder Cees Links says. Sensor networks need power to run, but batteries have a limited life and need regular maintenance, which adds to the cost and inconvenience of adopting a nascent technology. That’s why GreenPeak thinks its technology is so valuable: the Netherlands-based startup is pushing its battery-free wireless chips and network hardware that rely on harnessing tiny amounts of energy from things like movement or solar.

And Links tells us that the company is making a major push into the U.S. market, which he explains “has a growing awareness of energy being a precious resource.” GreenPeak says it has established relationships with several U.S. systems integrators and distributors, and is actively looking to work with more large consumer-electronics makers to get its technology designed into wireless sensor systems in the U.S market. The company is a fabless semiconductor company, which means its chip designs need to be integrated into the building blocks of the network.

GreenPeak, formed in July 2007 through a merger of two wireless companies, has a couple advantages compared to the competition. Its wireless technology is built off of the industry standard ZigBee, which is starting to gain traction with utilities, developers and gear makers. ZigBee is low power, low cost and relatively low bandwidth compared to other data networks, so is a good fit for the on-off functions of energy monitoring and turning down or dimming appliances and lights. Because it’s an open standard, the company can tap the development community and work with many partners.

The company is backed by €10 million from a long list of venture firms, including DFJ Esprit, GIMV, Motorola Ventures, Allegro Investment Fund, SenterNovem, IWT. Links also tells us that GreenPeak is also now in the market to raise a Series B round of funding, though that could be several months down the road.

Energy-harvesting is also a technology that has started to turn heads in the networking space. Because wireless sensor networks require very little power, they can run off of tiny amounts of energy harvested from almost anything — changes in temperature, vibrations, even “the flipping of a light switch,” says Links. EnOcean is another startup using energy-harvesting to power wireless sensor networks, and startup M2E Power is integrating kinetic-powered devices into consumer electronics.

The biggest boost to GreenPeak’s technology could be the fact that businesses and homeowners are starting to realize that the next-generation of smart energy buildings will require constant monitoring and managing of energy consumption. Energy used to light, heat and construct buildings makes up around half of greenhouse gas emissions. And always-on networks and the cheap silicon of the infotech industry means energy data could be as easy to control as an email account. If you want more information about the future of the smart energy home, check out our Smart Energy Home briefing which identifies Green Peak as one of 25 up and coming startups to watch.


NREL solar cell sets world efficiency record at 40.8 percent

source: http://www.electricalengineer.com/index.php?option=com_zippynews&id=236&task=detailnews&cid=

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.

The inverted metamorphic triple-junction solar cell was designed, fabricated and independently measured at NREL. The 40.8 percent efficiency was measured under concentrated light of 326 suns. One sun is about the amount of light that typically hits Earth on a sunny day. The new cell is a natural candidate for the space satellite market and for terrestrial concentrated photovoltaic arrays, which use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight onto the solar cells.

The new solar cell differs significantly from the previous record holder � also based on a NREL design. Instead of using a germanium wafer as the bottom junction of the device, the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell's three junctions for higher potential efficiencies. This is accomplished by growing the solar cell on a gallium arsenide wafer, flipping it over, then removing the wafer. The resulting device is extremely thin and light and represents a new class of solar cells with advantages in performance, design, operation and cost.

NREL's Mark Wanlass invented the original inverted cell, which recently won a R&D 100 award. His design was modified by a team led by John Geisz that further optimized the junction energies by making the middle junction metamorphic as well as the bottom junction. Metamorphic junctions are lattice mismatched � their atoms don't line up. The material properties of the mismatched semiconductors allows for greater potential conversion of sunlight.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.


Monday, September 29, 2008

ScottishPower plans world's largest tidal power project

source: http://www.smartplanet.com/news/tech/10001715/scottishpower-plans-world-s-largest-tidal-power-project.htm

Scotland and Ireland have been picked for a tidal power project providing enough electricity for 40,000 homes. ScottishPower Renewables announced the plan today, which will see carbon-free energy generated off the coast at Pentland Firth and the Sound of Islay in Scotland, and North Antrim in Northern Ireland.

At each location, up to 20 underwater turbines will each generate 1 megawatt (MW) of power from the tidal stream. Together, the tidal power stations should generate a total of 60 megawatts. That's big. OpenHydro, which was the first company to export tidal energy to the national grid, is only generating 0.25 megawatts at its installation off Orkney.

"Pentland Firth alone contains enough tidal energy to meet a third of Scotland�s power requirements," says Keith Anderson, Director at ScottishPower Renewables.

The technology behind the plans is the L�nstr�m Norwegian turbine design by Hammerfest Str�m AS. ScottishPower hopes the turbines will be operation by 2011.

"Scotland has a marine energy resource which is unrivalled in Europe," Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said today. "We have an estimated 25 per cent of Europe's tidal resource and 10 per cent of its wave potential."

Tidal power's advocates argue that its advantage over wave power and other renewable sources is its predictability. We know when the tide comes.

Unlike the controversial Severn tidal barrage, the new sites will generate electricity from tidal stream power. So far, tidal stream has appeared to have no negative environmental impact.

While tidal power is currently a minnow in UK electricity generation, it has huge potential to rival wind turbines as a major source of green power.

Innovative new designs are also cropping up regularly -- check out Oxford University's prototype for a new horizontal tidal turbine.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Convert phone booths into electric car stations, says TH!NK

source: http://www.smartplanet.com/news/transport/10001714/convert-phone-booths-into-electric-car-stations-says-th-nk.htm

There's a long history of ideas to reinvent public telephone boxes that, for the most part, are unused and smell of wee. Proposals have ranged from transforming them into Wi-Fi hot spots to designating them as heritage attractions. Now Norway's electric car maker TH!NK has jumped on the bandwagon by suggesting telephone boxes could be made into charging stations for electric cars.

Speaking yesterday at the Essential Cleantech 2008 conference, TH!NK's UK MD Richard Blundell said he'd been in conversations with Spanish telco Telefonica about the concept.

Telefonica, he said, owns thousands of underused telephone boxes in Madrid. He noted the boxes were mostly road-side and all had electrical connections, making them ideal candidates to become electric car charging stations.

Blundell also used the conference to reiterate his belief in a model of leasing batteries to buyers of its electric City car (pictured), which is due in the UK in 2009.

Photo: Knut Bry


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Iberdrola floats oceanic powerbuoy

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/09/23/iberdrola-floats-oceanic-powerbuoy/

Spanish utility Iberdrola has started to tap the power of the motion of the ocean with the deployment of its first PowerBuoy from wave energy developer Ocean Power Technologies.

Currently bobbing up and down off the coast of SantoƱa, Spain, the PowerBuoy is the first of 10 planned buoys which Iberdrola plans to eventually have producing 1.39 megawatts for the grid. The company claims it will be the world’s first commercial utility-scale wave power generation venture. The project also had development help from French energy giant Total S.A; regional development agency SODERCAN; and the IDEA, the Spanish energy agency.

New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies is working all over the world with its PowerBuoys. Since testing a 1 megawatt installation for the U.S. Navy in Hawaii beginning in 2004, the wave-energy firm signed a joint development agreement with Australian energy provider Griffin Energy to build and operate a 10- to 100-megawatt wave-power station off the coast of Western Australia.

Hydrokinetic energy has been making waves in the clean energy sector. A number of startups are working to scale the technology for utility use, while city and federal governments are eager to add more renewables to the grid. New York City has been experimenting with tidal turbines in the East River, where Verdant Power recently sank in another 16-foot rotor. The location is ideal, with currents so strong the first rotors broke under the strain.

Startups will have to figure out how to make robust energy generators that can withstand the constant brutality of waves and currents — but if all that destructive energy can be captured and harnessed, it would be a huge new energy resource.


New more efficient solar cells patented in Spain

source: http://technology4life.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/new-more-efficient-solar-cells-patented-in-spain/

(Photo: 3d-photonic-crystal).

A team of researchers at the Spanish High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) has patented a new type of solar cells whose efficiency is up to 30% higher than conventional solar cells. Their photonic crystal is composed of a nanostructured surface which increases the transmission of light inside the device.

CSIC researcher and project leader, Pablo Aitor Postigo, who works at the Institute of Microelectronics of Madrid (IMM-CSIC), points out the advantages of these cells: “They are more efficient in harnessing the sun’s rays. Current systems can only take advantage of 30% of solar energy to convert it into electricity. Our solar cells will enhance the effectiveness of these systems by up to 30%. “

The techniques used by these scientists to produce the crystal can be applied industrially. The large-scale manufacture of these new solar cells would have the same cost as conventional ones. In addition, they require less semiconductor material to get the same amount of energy.

Postigo has worked together with several researchers from the Institute of Microelectronics of Madrid (CSIC) and the Solar Energy Institute and the University of Pavia in Italy.


Titan Energy Worldwide awards Saft contract to power electric mobile utility systems

source: http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1898600/

Titan Energy Worldwide, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, Titan Energy Development, Inc., has selected Saft to power the Renewable Energy Mobile Utility System (REMUS). Designed for military application, REMUS is a mobile emergency utility system that incorporates renewable wind, solar and battery power to supplement a diesel generator and provide utility scale electrical services in situations where continued fuel sources are not available or too costly.

According to Thomas Black, President of Titan Energy Development, "The REMUS is an exciting development in the emergency energy industry as it offers a solution that is less dependent on traditional fuels, particularly in emergency and remote situations where fuel sources may be limited. By leveraging new alternative energy technologies to supplement traditional power sources, REMUS seamlessly extends the runtime of a single tank of fuel reducing operating costs."

Under the new contract, Saft is supplying a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery system, which is part of its standard line of products for Hybrid Electric Military Vehicles (HEMV). The Li-ion system recharges using renewable energy generated by the trailer's wind turbines and solar panels, enabling REMUS' diesel generator to run more efficiently and reduce fuel costs. The battery is also responsible for powering the trailer's HVAC and lighting package.

"Saft is proud to play such an integral role in the development and successful operation of REMUS," said Thomas Alcide, General Manager of Saft's Specialty Battery Group. "The trailer requires a small, lightweight battery capable of controlling numerous operations while maximizing fuel efficiency and Saft's advanced technology most effectively meets these specifications."

Titan Energy Development was contracted to build REMUS by NextEnergy, a Michigan nonprofit dedicated to advancing the development of alternative energy technologies. In coordination with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the REMUS will provide electricity, heating and cooling for a new deployable Military depot and communication suite and will also provide domestic support during natural disaster response and relief efforts.

About Titan Energy Worldwide, Inc.

Titan Energy is a leader in the manufacturing, marketing and servicing of energy generation products and services, a major participant in the distributed, renewable, and alternative energy industries, and a leader in development and support for new energy-related technology. Founded in 2005, Titan combines engineering expertise, established sales and distributorships, service operations and unique strategic partnerships to meet the growing global demand for clean, efficient, energy solutions. Titan serves disaster recovery first responders, relief agencies, homeland security, the department of defense and municipalities. For more information, visit the company's website at www.titanenergy.com.

About NextEnergy

NextEnergy, Michigan's alternative energy accelerator, is a non-profit corporation dedicated to enabling the commercialization of energy technologies that positively contribute to economic competitiveness, energy security and the environment. NextEnergy drives technology collaborations, supplier diversification, progressive energy policy, and new business venture support to position Michigan as a leader in the emerging alternative energy industry. For more information please visit www.nextenergy.org.

About Saft

Saft is a world specialist in the design and manufacture of high-tech batteries for industry. Saft batteries are used in high performance applications such as industrial infrastructure and processes, transportation, space and defense. Saft is the world's leading manufacturer of nickel-cadmium batteries for industrial applications and of primary lithium batteries for a wide range of end markets. The group is also the European leader for specialized advanced technologies for the defense and space industries. With approximately 4,000 employees worldwide, Saft is present in 18 countries. Its 15 manufacturing sites and extensive sales network enable the group to serve its customers worldwide. For more information, visit Saft at www.saftbatteries.com.

Investors are cautioned that certain statements contained in this document as well as some statements in periodic press releases and some oral statements of TEWI officials are "Forward-Looking Statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the "Act"). Forward-looking statements include statements which are predictive in nature, which depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, which include words such as "believes," "anticipates," "intends," "plans," "expects," and similar expressions. In addition, any statements concerning future financial performance (including future revenues, earnings or growth rates), ongoing business strategies or prospects, and possible future TEWI actions, which may be provided by management, are also forward-looking statements as defined by the Act. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company to materially differ from any future results, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements and to vary significantly from reporting period to reporting period. Although management believes that the assumptions made and expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, there is no assurance that the underlying assumptions will, in fact, prove to be correct or that actual future results will not be different from the expectations expressed in this report. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and TEWI has no specific intention to update these statements.

Photo credits: Metromode http://www.metromodemedia.com/companies/titan0002.aspx


Sunday, September 21, 2008

LiFePO4 batteries: A breakthrough for electronic vehicles

source: http://www.metaefficient.com/rechargeable-batteries/innovative-lifepo4-batteries-electric-vehicles.html

Soon, we’ll probably be seeing Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries being used in most electric cars and bikes. This new battery type is set to dominate the market. Based upon lithium ion technology, LiFePO4 batteries offer many advantages over lithium cobalt dioxide (LiCoO2) batteries which are commonly used in laptops, mp3 players and cell phones.

In electric vehicles, LiFePO4 batteries offer greater range, power and safety. They provide full power until they are completely discharged, and recharge in just 2.5 hours. LiFePO4 chemistry is also environmentally friendly — it’s the least toxic of all the battery types.

A Graph Showing The Different Power Capacities and Weight of Various Batteries Types

A Graph Showing The Energy Density Of Various Batteries Types

LiFePO4 batteries were developed by Dr. John Goodenough at the University of Texas. These batteries have seen wide acceptance recently in Asian countries, but still have not made inroads in the U. S. marketplace. However, you can find these batteries being sold on eBay for electric bikes and scooters. You can now get a 52V LiFePo4 battery for an electric bike, that will give you a 65 mile range on a single charge with 60A drain rate.

For electric vehicles and plug-in electric cars, the LiFePO4 batteries will typically perform well in temperatures up to 400-degrees F, last for 6 to 7 years at a charge-discharge cycle of over 3,000.

The biggest player in the LiFePO4 marketplace for electric vehicles, however, is A123 Systems that has teamed up with GM to develop these batteries for the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. Another big player is Lithium Technology Corporation who has been working with GM, Toyota and U. C. Davis to develop LiFePO4 batteries for all-electric and hybrid vehicles.

Here’s a list of all the advantages of LiFePo4 batteries:

  • Safe technology — will not catch fire or explode with overcharge
  • Over 2000 discharge cycles life compared to typically around 300 for lead acid
  • Double the usable capacity of similar amp hour lead acid batteries
  • Virtually flat discharge curve means maximum power available until fully discharged (no “voltage sag” as with lead acid batteries)
  • High discharge rate capability, 10C continuous, 20C pulse discharge
  • Unlike lead acid batteries, can be left in a partially discharged state for extended periods without causing permanent damage
  • Extremely low self discharge rate (unlike lead acid which will go flat quite quickly if left sitting for long periods)
  • Does not suffer from “thermal runaway”
  • Can be used safely in high ambient temperatures of up to 60C without any degradation in performance
  • Maintenance free for the life of the battery
  • Can be operated in any orientation
  • Does not contain any toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, nor any corrosive acids or alkalies thus making LiFePO4 batteries the most environmentally friendly battery chemistry available
  • LiFePO4 cells are of solid construction — there are no fragile/brittle plates made of lead which can be prone to failure over time as a result of vibration
  • Can be safely rapidly recharged — when fully discharged can be brought to a state of over 90% fully charged in 15 minutes


Sanyo releases test results of thinner HIT solar cells

source: http://www.solarfeeds.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3636:sanyo-releases-test-results-of-thinner-hit-solar-cells&catid=129:ggs&Itemid=206

Sanyo Solar Electric released test results of the 85 micrometer-thick solar cell. Sanyo claims their HIT solar cell reached an efficiency of 21.4% at a thickness of 85 micrometer-thick. According to the company when the thickness of the HIT solar cell was reduced the drop in the conversion efficiency was limited because the open circuit voltage rose. Typically Sanyo HIT Solar Panels have an efficiency of 22.3%

This test shows that Sanyo is trying to develop a thinner version of the HIT solar cell while balancing high efficiency. Sanyo Solar panels are highly regarded as highly efficient solar panels and are preferred in the residential and light commercial market in which southern roof space may be limited and since highly efficient solar panels produce more watts per square foot, receive a larger rebate and break even faster these types of solar panels make a good choice when considering multiple brand of solar panels.


Chevy Volt hits the road, video style

Chevy Volt hits the road, video style

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The Chevy Volt had its big debut last week, and although the official pictures were far cooler than those leaked dudes-in-suits shots we saw a while ago, there's something about this slow-motion video of the all-electric-drive car in motion accompanied by some soaring Coldplay that pulls at our jaded heartstrings -- now if Chevy would just add in one of those fake engine sounds audio systems, we'd be in heaven.

Continue reading Chevy Volt hits the road, video style

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

12 year old invents more efficient solar panel

source: http://www.techimoto.com/2008/09/18/12-year-old-invents-more-efficient-solar-panel/

William Yuan, from Portland, Oregon, has a better idea. A recent science project he developed, entitled “A Highly-Efficient 3-Dimensional Nanotube Solar Cell for Visible and UVLight,” William invented a novel solar panel that enables light absorption from visible toultraviolet light. He designed carbon nanotubes to overcome the barriers of electron movement, doubling the light-electricity conversion efficiency. William also developed a model for solar towers and a computer program to simulate and optimize the tower parameters. His optimized design provides 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than the cutting-edge, three dimensional solar cell.

William probably put this project together using funds from his paper route. Just think what we could do if Big Oil put even 1% of their profits into alternative energy research! Rock on William, you are a true American.


Graphene Could Become World's Best Super Battery [Graphene]

Graphene Could Become World's Best Super Battery [Graphene]

You know graphene, the super material that's strong enough to withstand diamond cutters? Turns out that not only may it replace silicon as the de rigeur component of microchips, it's on track to becoming the next megabattery as well. Engineers at the University of Texas in Austin have found a way to store electrical charge in graphene-based ultracapacitor devices, and their discovery could revolutionize the renewable energy industry.

There are two ways to store electrical energy today—through traditional rechargeable batteries or in ultracapacitors, a newer tech that runs safer, cooler, and longer. The UofT researchers think their breakthough could end up doubling the capacity of current ultracapacitors, which are made with a different, less awesome form of carbon.

If everything works out, it could give a much needed boost to solar and wind energy industries, whose main challenge right now is energy storage for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Beyond that, graphene ultracapacitors could end up improving the efficiency of all electrical appliances—cars, buses, trains, you name it. [Science Daily via Slashdot]


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Suniva claims 20%+ efficiencies for screen-printed solar cells

source: http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=210601948

Atlanta, Ga. � Suniva Inc., a manufacturer of high value crystalline silicon solar cells, has announced that its R&D team has developed several silicon solar cells with over 20% conversion efficiencies using a patented combination of simple cell designs and screen printing technologies. The company claims this is an industry record for screen-printed cells.

Suniva said this demonstrates that the company's advanced technologies in diffusion, surface passivation and contacts can increase conversion efficiency while reducing processing time and maintaining low cell cost. The patented technology reportedly reduces the number of steps in the production process and incorporates advanced design features that boost the power output from the cell.

The conversion efficiency of a solar cell refers to the percentage of sunlight converted by the cell into electricity, which is a metric critical to bringing down the cost of solar generated power, Suniva said. The company's current ARTisun cell technology has produced a verified efficiency of 18.5% in the lab.

These high-efficiency milestones have been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy's laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.

The company plans to focus on moving this technology from lab-sized cells to the production line and to commercialize the cells as soon as it's "possible and practical".

The company also has three new patents pending, which relate to the structural design, process of fabrication, module integration and the efficient use of low-cost heterojunction solar cells. Suniva now owns or has exclusive license to 32 patents and patent applications worldwide.

(Photo credits: CleanTechnica. http://cleantechnica.com/2008/09/23/suniva-introduces-low-cost-high-efficiency-solar-cells/)


New rechargeable Lithium batteries could jump-start hybrid electric car efficiency

source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915121227.htm

Researchers at the University of Bath are helping to develop new rechargeable batteries that could improve hybrid electric cars in the future. Transport is a major energy user and is estimated to be responsible for around 25% of the UK's total carbon emissions.

As concern grows about climate change, a range of 'green technologies' are being developed to help reduce carbon emissions.

Hybrid petrol/electric cars that use conventional metal-hydride batteries are already available but they are heavy and the cars have limited power.

Professor Saiful Islam, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, is researching new materials to use in rechargeable lithium batteries, similar to those that have helped to power the worldwide 'portable revolution' in mobile phones, laptops and MP3 players. For hybrid cars, new materials are crucial to make the batteries lighter, safer and more efficient in storing energy.

Professor Islam's research, which recently won the Fuel Cell Science & Technology Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry, will be presented at the Sustainable Energy and the Environment research showcase on September 17 at the University of Bath, alongside other cutting-edge research from across the region.

"Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius rely on petrol engines, with their batteries being charged by the waste energy from braking. These cars provide better fuel economy for urban driving than a conventional car," explained Professor Islam.

"Developing new materials holds the key to lighter and more efficient rechargeable batteries for hybrid electric cars, reducing our use of fossil fuels and cutting carbon emissions."

The showcase will be opened by David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and will be attended by key industrialists, research councils, local and national government officials and other key stakeholders from across the South West.

The exhibition also coincides with the launch of the new Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (I-SEE) at the University of Bath. This will bring together experts from diverse fields of science, engineering, social policy and economics to tackle the problems posed by global warming.

Professor Islam added: "I-SEE reflects the growing focus on 'green technology' at the University, which is a major centre for sustainable energy and chemical research."

The showcase event on 17 September will also feature exhibitions from other researchers from the University on subjects such as affordable solar cells and hydrogen fuel production.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Peugeot Concept Cars of Tomorrow Have Propellers, Joysticks [Future Cars]

Peugeot Concept Cars of Tomorrow Have Propellers, Joysticks [Future Cars]

If Gundam mated with Will Smith's Audi in I, Robot, the offspring would resemble these futuristic concept cars from European brand Peugeot. The cars car-like vehicles were all entries in the 2008 Peugeot Design Contest. Designers were asked by organizers to create vehicles for that ambiguous but tantalizing "city of the future." Areas of focus included environmental awareness, "social harmony," interactive mobility and efficiency. As you can see in the "Blade" vehicle above, efficiency is improved with the wind turbine that designer Ying Hui Choo added to charge an on-board electric battery.

The 888, designed by Oskar Johansen, pivots at the center and reduces its size for "easier parking, maneuverability and increased visibility."

Emre Yazici's "EGO" has two wheels and is controlled Atari-style with a joystick. The windshield doubles as the door. [Telegraph]


Thursday, September 11, 2008

The future's greener: Vertical farms and computerised car convoys could be just around the corner

source: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-futures-greener-vertical-farms-and-computerised-car-convoys-could-be-just-around-the-corner-925394.html?action=Popup

Urban farming

Want to eat local produce but don't know how? Grow it yourself - on the balcony, in the driveway or even on the roof - with U-Grow, a home farming system based around hydroponics (growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil) and aeroponics (growing plants in an air, or mist environment without soil). U-Grow will also collect any surplus in electric vans to resell.

Boosting local food supply reduces the need to transport, so reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Goodman explains. It would also ease the pressure on agricultural land by enabling more food to be grown in cities.

"It's an extension of a number of current trends," he says. "Already there is talk of the environmental benefits of growing vegetation on green roofs in built-up areas to create urban farms. And unlike today's veggie-box delivery schemes, vans would not go away empty."

Researchers at Columbia University are exploring the concept of "Vertical farms" - tower blocks (like the design by Chris Jacobs) where fruit, vegetables, fish, and livestock could make cities self-sufficient.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Concentrator-solar photovoltaic power at a quarter the cost: Morgan Solar Sun Simba HCPV

source: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/09/concentrator-solar-photovoltaic-power-quarter-the-cost-morgan-solar-hcpv.php

morgan solar sun simba hcpv photo

I was going to wait until Morgan Solar actually opened its demonstration project at the Earth Rangers Center in Ontario sometime later this month, but after seeing some more info on their new concentrating-solar technology in Greentech Media I couldn't wait.

The payoff first: Morgan Solar claims that its new technology will cost one-quarter as much as traditional concentrating-solar. Quite a claim, but how will Morgan Solar's system, which they've dubbed the Sun Simba HCPV (High Concentating Photovoltaic), actually work?

morgan solar vesus competitors comparison image

Low Cost, Lightweight, Recyclable Materials
Unlike current concentrating-solar designs which use lenses or reflectors to direct the sunlight onto solar cells, Morgan Solar’s uses what it is calling a “Light-guide Solar Optic” made of acrylic which concentrates sunlight 750 times onto multilayered solar cells at the edge of the plastic. The company says that their system eliminates the bulkiness of traditional CPV systems, is extremely low cost, uses no toxic materials and is 100% recyclable.

In an interview with Greentech Media, Morgan Solar’s director of business development Nicolas Morgan described the system in a bit more detail:

Two triangular optics are put together in a package about the size and shape of a CD case, each drawing light to one corner of the concentrator [...] A panel will consist of 80 to 100 of these CD-case-like arrangements [...] By guiding light to the edge – not the bottom – of a panel, the concentrator releases heat instead of trapping it and doesn't overheat.

morgan solar sun simba hcpv cutaway photo

Prototype Working Within the Month
Morgan Solar’s demonstration prototype, which I mentioned at the beginning of the post, will be one square meter in size; production panels are expected to be about 1.5x1.0 meters.

Commercial Production By End of 2009?
Though there are multiple hurdles to overcome before bringing this technology to the commercial stage, Morgan Solar expects to do so by the end of 2009. Provided all goes well between now and then, this could be definitely one to watch.


Microstaq's tiny valves mean big energy saving

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/09/09/microstaqs-tiny-valves-mean-big-energy-savings/

Making air conditioners more energy efficient through the use of semiconductor-based valves would not only reduce the average air conditioning bill by some 20 to 30 percent, but would save the equivalent of 1.2 billion barrels of oil annually. That’s according to the Microstaq team, which are showing off their tiny valves at the Demo conference this week. And like the new “Harry Potter” movie, such energy-saving air conditioners will hit the market in the summer of next year.

Microstaq is a manufacturer of microelectromechanical machines (MEMS), silicon-based chips that combine that digital information with the analog world (such as the microphone inside your cell phone that translate your voice into digital signals for wireless networks). The Microstaq MEM is a tiny, computer-controlled valve that aims to replace the larger and more expensive expansion valves used in air conditioning and refrigeration (shown at left). It’s more accurate than non-electrical valves and can keep the temperature better regulated, leading to the efficiencies.

Microstaq has attached the chip to a larger casing, so the MEM is easy to drop into place without re-engineering the entire air conditioning unit (shown at bottom). The 8-year-old company, which to date has raised $12.5 million, says it has signed deals with three of the top five U.S. air conditioning makers but cannot name them. It also plans to go after the industrial refrigeration market. Sandeep Kumar, Microstaq’s CEO, says the cost of the chip will be equivalent to the cost of the valves already in use today, which are about $15.

He doesn’t expect to see these valves in residential refrigeration systems anytime soon, because they are currently cooled with capillary tubes that cost about $3 — making the chip-based solution way more expensive — unless a government mandate changes things.

In the meantime, the firm is also working to put its valves inside automobile transmissions in a bid to improve fuel efficiency and lower the costs of providing a smooth-shifting manual transmission. The medical diagnostics market can also use the devices to reduce the size and cost of machines that test blood. Other uses, such as those that involve insertion in the body, are possible as well, but would require FDA approval.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Energy Ball wind turbine captures energy for the home

Energy Ball wind turbine captures energy for the home

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As much as we prefer a good old-fashioned bird-killin' three blade wind turbine, apparently they cause a bit too much vibration and disturbance for regular home use. That's where the Energy Ball comes in, with its spherical shape that captures wind less obtrusively and yet more efficiently. At least that's what we're told, we're a bit short on details. We do know that it's in the prototype stages and was designed by Swedish company Home Energy, who claims their smallest Energy Ball can provide about 15% of the necessary energy to power the average Swedish home.

[Via Inhabitat]
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Algae-to-Kerosene jet fuel snags $3M

source: http://earth2tech.com/2008/09/03/algae-to-kerosene-jet-fuel-snags-3m/

Scientists working at Arizona State University’s Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology hope that tiny algae will be able to fuel jumbo jets. Now, their research is being spun-off as a $3 million research and commercialization collaboration between Heliae Development and Science Foundation Arizona to develop, produce and sell kerosene-based aviation fuel derived from algae. The researchers say they’ve already moved their work from the lab bench to a pilot-scale demonstration and production project.

Led by Qiang Hu and Milton Sommerfeld, the research centers on specific algal strains that produce lots of fatty acids that, when de-oxygenated, are very similar to kerosene. The team says its process can produce kerosene cheaper from algae than from petroleum. With a few fuel additives, kerosene can be made into aviation fuel, and with this seed funding, the project will continue development of algal strains specifically for jet fuel at ASU’s new SkySong innovation center.

Heliae is contributing $1.5 million for further research and development and Science Foundation Arizona will match that; ASU will receive a total of $3 million for the project. Arizona Technology Enterprises, the technology venturing arm of ASU, will receive an equity stake in the company, including licensing fees and commercialization income.

The new venture joins a few other algae-to-biofuel startups taking aim at green jet fuel. Seattle-based Inventure Chemical, which closed its first round of funding mid-2007, told the Seattle PI that it has already created algae-based jet fuel in test batches and hopes to produce up to 15 million gallons of biofuel each year. Kiwi Aquaflow Binomics says it is working with Boeing on algae-to-bio-jetfuel using open-air environments to grow its plants.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Parans Fiber Optic Skylights bring natural light to dark spaces

source: http://www.jetsongreen.com/2008/08/parans-fiber-op.html

Parans - Huvco

The interesting thing about fiber optic lighting is that it creates the ability to put natural light in places where there is none.  Generally, here's how it works.  Using a building-mounted panel with computer-controlled, sun-tracking lenses, natural light is channeled through optical fibers to luminaires that diffuse the light (see diagram below).  Since early 2008, HUVCO Daylighting Solutions has been offering a fiber optic lighting system like this, or the Parans System, which was developed in Sweden.  Although light only travels about 60 feet through optical cables, the ability to direct light in this manner is quite interesting. 


HUVCO provides a variety of options to both collect and diffuse light.  Cables can be routed through walls, ceilings, and subfloors, depending on your building set up.  And HUVCO also has hybrid luminaires that use both natural and electric light. 

Natural light has been attributed to increased productivity and morale, better performance, and increased sales.  Additionally, using fiber optic natural lighting reduces the need to use electrical lights during the peak time of day, thereby providing the potential for reduced energy costs, depending on how much you're paying for the entire system.

As a relatively new product, we haven't yet seen any cost or ROI studies on the Parans System, but we will certainly keep you posted as this kind of information hits the market.  Anyone have experience using fiber optic lighting?





Photo credits: Huvco.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Massive floating generators, or "eco-rigs", to provide power and food to Japan

source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4648732.ece

Battered by soaring energy costs and aghast at dwindling fish stocks, Japanese scientists think they have found the answer: filling the seas with giant 'eco-rigs' as powerful as nuclear power stations.

The project, which could result in village-sized platforms peppering the Japanese coastline within a decade, reflects a growing panic in the country over how it will meet its future resource needs.

The floating eco-rig generators which measure 1.2 miles by 0.5 miles (2km by 800m) are intended to harness the energy of the Sun and wind. They are each expected to produce about 300 megawatt hours of power.

Some energy would be lost moving the electricity back onshore, but when three units are strapped together, scientists at Kyushu University say, the effect will be the same as a standard nuclear power station.

The eco-rigs' gift to the environment does not stop there: some of the power that the solar cells and wind turbines produce will be hived off to fuel colossal underwater banks of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The lamps are intended to convert the platforms into nurseries for specially selected seaweed that absorbs carbon dioxide and feeds fish and plankton. Deep-sea water that is rich in minerals will enhance the seaweed growth. The wind turbines will power pumps that will then draw the water to the surface.The rigs will be unmanned and comprise several hexagonal platforms.

Strapped between them will be large nets designed to support the weight of wind turbines and about 200,000 hexagonal photovoltaic generators — super-efficient solar panels that are about the size of a double bed. The LEDs will shine down from the panels.

As a country with virtually no fossil fuels, price rises in oil and gas have chilled the corporate sector and the Japanese Government.

Japan's faith in nuclear power has also taken a beating. An earthquake caused its largest nuclear plant to shut down in 2007 and engineers and seismic experts cautioned that the country's high susceptibility to quakes placed the industry at risk.

The Kyushu team says the plans are about three years away from becoming reality. It began tests on a scale version of the eco-rig last month, and full-scale official evaluation is expected to begin soon.